By Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, February 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A new study finds that US doctors prescribe more brand-name drugs after receiving a free lunch or other incentives from vendors at pharmaceutical companies.
The researchers analyzed the prescription of medications between 2013 and 2015 for a large sample of members in Medicare Part D. The federal program, which subsidizes prescriptions for 37 million elderly and disabled people, accounts for almost a third of retail sales of prescription drugs. in the U.S.
That information was compared to a database in which pharmaceutical companies report on incentives granted to doctors, including meals, travel or continuing education expenses.
While those incentives tended to be modest, 95% were meals, of which 80% were valued at less than $ 20, were common and had an impact, according to the study.
More than 20% of Medicare Part D expenses on brand name drugs come from doctors who received an incentive related to a prescription drug. Almost 30% of doctors received an incentive for at least one medication they prescribed during the study period.
"The prevalence of the practice implies that the financial impacts are economically large," the authors wrote in the working paper published on February 17 by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Colleen Carey, assistant professor of analysis and policy management at Cornell University, is the first author of the study.
She and her colleagues estimated that for every additional dollar that pharmaceutical companies spent on marketing visits, they could expect $ 2.64 more in revenue from medications over the next year. That is a return on investment of 164%.
The researchers noted that that was not as high as previous estimates, which ranged from 200% to 1,700%.
They also discovered that marketing visits by representatives of pharmaceutical companies do not lead doctors to prescribe higher quality medications, as the pharmaceutical industry states.
"We take seriously the claim that these marketing meetings have educational value," Carey said in a Cornell press release. "We just don't find evidence of that."